Climate Change Takes Center Stage on Earth Week in Miami

Guest Blog | May 6, 2014 | Climate Change, Energy Policy
Climate change impacts, including sea level rise, were front and center in South Florida  – paying true respect to Earth Week. While environment-focused events were occurring across Florida, Miami-Dade County was home to hearings, panels, and rallies hosted by the esteemed Senator Nelson (D-FL), Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) and Congressman Garcia (D-FL).

Kicking off Earth Day Senator Nelson held an uncommon field hearing in Miami Beach that was open to the public, attracting local residents, activists and press. The hearing participants included experts on climate change, Miami Beach Mayor Levine and Broward County Commissioner Kristin Jacobs. The hearing highlighted the risks to the region from sea level rise , such as street flooding, salt water intrusion on our drinking water wells, major flood control challenges, and real estate insurance price spikes. These impacts directly threaten our quality of life. The senator made headlines dubbing Miami Beach as “ground-zero” for climate change and sea level rise.  Activists and volunteers from various organizations rallied outside Miami Beach City Hall calling on state and federal action to reduce carbon pollution.

As the events were wrapping up on Miami Beach South Floridians were organizing a panel hosted by Rep. Garcia, joined by Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), at the University of Miami. Much like the Senator’s hearing, Rep. Garcia’s panel was greeted by a packed room of students, community leaders, business leaders, activists and press drawing focus on the direct threats and impact of climate change on our broader South Florida region. The experts discussed the real and present impacts of rising seas, and sobering projections of impacts on the region for the future.

The panel was diverse, featuring both presidents of the Greater Miami and Miami Beach Chambers of Commerce who called for action to protect the interests of local business and our largest industry: tourism. We heard from University of Miami and Florida International University experts, tourism and agricultural experts, the Realtors Association of the Florida Keys and representatives of our National Parks. It was clear that tourism, our economic engine, could expect an increasing blow as a result of climate change impacts.

It doesn’t end there however, the building momentum continued into Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s tour across the Southeast on climate change and sea level rise came to beautiful Pinecrest Gardens for its rally and finale. I must say this was my favorite event and I was quite motivated by Senator Whitehouse, the CLEO Institute, Pinecrest Mayor Cindy Lerner and a “who’s who” list of local and national groups organizing, educating and engaging our community on climate change. Senator Whitehouse, community members, experts and the broad spectrum of organizations in attendance pledged to act on climate change, to hold elected officials who deny climate change and/or the science behind it accountable, and to demand we unite behind this vital and timely challenge facing not only South Florida but the world.

Each speaker at each event tapped into their personal depth of knowledge, expertise and personal connection to identify what’s at stake if we do not face these challenges head on. There was a hunger from participants, panelists, experts, attendees and local elected officials who hosted and joined as guests to the truly wonderful events. Here on Earth Week in Miami, Florida the mandate and message was clear; if we cannot unite here in South Florida around issues like climate change and sea level rise then we cannot count on anybody else doing it for us. We left these events galvanized, united and with real momentum to take action on reducing carbon pollution.

Let’s keep that momentum growing and moving forward!



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